Over a century ago, Theodor Herzl sensed impending doom for the Jewish population of Europe based on a number of triggers, one major one being the Dreyfus Affair in France. In response to this rising tide of anti-Semitism, he published Der Judenstaat, which argued that the only way Jews would be safe was if they returned to the land of Israel and established a state of their own. Fortunately for Jews today the State of Israel was established, because some of these old triggers are starting to rear their ugly head.
American Jews have assimilated greatly in the safety of America this past century, but with the rates of intermarriage rising and the lowest birth rate of any religious or ethnic community in the United States growing, the Jewish community in America has become complacent in their standing in the world today, very much reminiscent of pre-WWII Europe. As Allan Dershowitz recently noted, there are approximately 5.5 million Jews in American and a “Harvard study predicted that if current demographic trends continue, the American Jewish community is likely to number less than 1 million and conceivably as few as 10,000 by the time the United States celebrates its tricentennial in 2076.” Unfortunately for the Jews of America, as World War II taught us, not matter how assimilated you may feel, the world will always see you as a Jew.
This is not to maintain that we will see another catastrophic event like the Holocaust, but we are certainly entering a period in the near future where it could become much more uncomfortable for Jews living in America, somewhat like the Jewish communities currently facing waves of anti-Semitism in France and Belgium. There are multiple isolated triggers that we can point to, that if combined, start to draw a worrisome picture.
From college campuses in America all the way to those in South Africa, universities are becoming hotspots for anti-Semitism. According to a recent study by Brandeis University, anti-Semitism on UC campuses, such as UC Berkeley and UCLA, are becoming increasingly more common. Couched and validated behind the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, these groups look not to just delegitimize Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but to openly question and deny Israel’s right to exist at all. Members of this movement on campuses across the country o do not regularly distinguish in practice between Israel and Jews in general. This month at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, student’s and facility woke up to graffiti declaring, “F*ck the Jews” and “Kill a Jew” spray-painted on walls. On that same campus in 2013 people protesting in the name of BDS sang “Dubula e Juda” (Shoot the Jew’) outside the university’s Great Hall.
Meanwhile, according to an article in the USA Today, “a recent study by the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that seeks to combat anti-Semitism on college campuses, found the number of incidents involving the suppression of Jewish students’ freedom of speech and assembly doubled from last year.” Additionally, according to a report by Newsweek, “more than a dozen Jewish student events were violently disrupted this year at schools coast to coast, including Boston University, University of Maryland and University of Florida. On the University of California campuses, anti-Semitic graffiti reading, “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” has appeared on the walls of buildings, while a UCLA student’s impartiality on a student body was questioned due to her being merely Jewish.
According to the Maccabee Task Force, a group that monitors such events, “there can be no doubt that university faculty and administration across the country are aiding and abetting the BDS movement. Some are guilty of sins of commission, typically faculty who use their authority to recruit for BDS. Some are guilty of sins of omission, typically administrators who are afraid to confront anti-Semitism with the vigor with which they respond to all other forms of hate. We must call out both types of sins wherever and whenever we see them.” It should be noted that while these student groups protested daily during the last Gaza war, these same groups have been largely silent as Russian and various Arabs actors maim and slaughter innocent women and children by the thousands in Syria.
What is increasingly troubling about these incidents is not just that they are happening now, but more so, what the effects these anti-Semitic campaigns will have on a whole generation of college educated Americans once they graduate. While it is easy to shrug this off in the short term, the long-term effects could be devastating. While the mainstream media largely focuses on anti-Muslim hate crimes, according to the FBI, in 2015, 53.3% of the religiously motivated hate crimes in America, or 664 incidents, were directed at Jews, who make up less than 2% of the population. Crimes against Jews increased by about 9% from 2014.
We are already seeing the effects of all of this play out in the recent Democratic Primaries. According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians by a 43% to 29% margin, which is much smaller gap than just a few years ago, while the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party sympathizes with Palestinians by a margin of 40% to 33%. We can expect that margin to grow as more young people come through university for years to come, in addition to changes in the party leadership as well. The defeat of Hillary Clinton is going to contribute to a platform change by the Progressive base that already stated they wanted to put pressure on Israel and enact changes to the party’s platform this past primary season.
While Bernie Sanders is Jewish, his stance towards Israel is more in line with the rest of his fellow Progressives, many of the young people who supported him and who are increasingly hostile towards Israel. His platform team included a number of people that support the BDS movement including Cornel West, a philosopher and social activist, and James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute. Sanders also named Simone Zimmerman as his national Jewish outreach coordinator despite her profanity-laced messages directed towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Additionally, during a New York Daily News interview Sanders said that if Israel wanted “positive” ties with the U.S. than the Israeli government was “going to have to improve their relationship with the Palestinians.” He also repeated what he called was an overreaction by Israel in its response to Hamas’ launching hundreds of rockets into Israel during the Gaza war in the summer of 2014, making erroneous claims that Israel killed over 10,000 civilians and often targeted Gaza hospitals.
As a side, it should be noted that last year a multinational group of distinguished military officers lauded Israel for carrying out an “exemplary campaign” that fully adhered to the norms of international law during the 2014 war in Gaza. This group was made up of top military men from countries such as the US, Italy, Spain, Australia, France, India, the UK and Columbia, a few of those countries are not even usually very sympathetic to Israel.
It should also be noted that Sanders was the only candidate that declined an invitation to address AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. It’s quite amazing that the first Jewish politician to ever win a Presidential primary declined an invitation to speak to AIPAC and was without a doubt the least pro-Israel candidate running for the Presidency this past cycle. Such actions surely had Ben-Gurion, Jabotinsky and Hertzl rolling in their graves.
The effects of Hillary’s defeat are being felt immediately as Bernie Sanders, and the rest of the Progressive wing of the party, are pushing for the nomination of Representative Keith Ellison to head the Democratic National Committee. Ellison, a Muslim, has in the past, although not recently, defended Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam against accusations of anti-Semitism and on a recent trip to Israel he posted a picture of a sign in Hebron declaring Israel to be an apartheid state and declaring Israel of stealing land. While he does have close ties to some in the Jewish community, he has also called for Israel to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip despite Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the territory being met with a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority by Hamas and unrelenting and indiscriminate missile attacks against civilian areas in Israel.
This anti-Semitic vitriol is not only coming from the left, but also from the right. While it is easy to dismiss Donald Trumps divisive talk as mere bluster, considering he is a long time liberal from New York, it’s tougher to ignore that fact that so many people that voted for him believed and delighted in such hate mongering, including the former leader of the KKK, David Duke.
Trump’s appointment of Alt-Right champion Stephen Bannon as his senior counselor, with an office in the White House, is even harder to dismiss. The Alt-Right are white power nationalists that view Fox News as too liberal and believe that different cultures can’t get along. They espouse that the best path is an all white America and are unabashedly openly anti-Semitic. Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News and has stated that they are the leading platform for the Alt-Right movement. As for Bannon himself, he ex-wife maintains that he is anti-Semitic and stated that the biggest problem he had with his children’s school was the number of Jews that attended. Accordingly, he supposedly stated that he said that he did not like Jews and didn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats.’ Fortunately, Trump has surrounded himself with a number of Jewish advisors including Jason Greenblatt, David Friedman and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Nonetheless, the rise of the Alt-Right into governments in America and throughout Europe, from the fringes to the White House, and possibly the Élysée Palace in 2017, is nothing short of alarming and provides validation for these once extremist views to move into the mainstream.
Looking at all of this in totality, and despite desires to ignore such acts in order to live in one’s bubble of bliss, the Jewish community in America needs to start taking note. As Hertzl warned all those years ago, ensuring a strong and safe homeland for the Jews is still paramount.
- 2015 Paris terror attacks
- American Jewry
- BDS Boycott Divestment Sanctions
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Bernie Sanders
- Campus Life
- Donald Trump
- European Jewry
- French Jewry
- Gaza Disengagement
- Gaza Rocket Attacks
- Hillary Clinton
- Israel on Campus
- Israel-US Relations
- Media Bias
- US Presidential Elections 2016